Tomas Berdych finally figured out how to best Rafael Nadal, and he did so in emphatic fashion.
The World No. 7 snapped a 17-match losing streak against his Spanish adversary on Tuesday in the quarterfinals, returning to the Australian Open semifinals with a dominant 6-2, 6-0, 7-6(5) win.
It was a perfect storm of wonderful shot-making by Berdych and sloppy play from Nadal. The powerful Czech hit 10 aces and 46 winners, while Nadal, forced onto his heels for much of the match, hit 24 winners and 26 unforced errors.
ESPN Stats & Info provided an interesting stat on Nadal's rough outing:
Despite a lengthy final set that went to a tiebreak, the final match lasted only two hours and 13 minutes. Berdych talked about his game plan, via the Australian Open Twitter feed:
The first set was defined by Berdych taking advantage of chances, and Nadal wasting his.
On serve early in the set, Nadal hit consecutive backhands and forehands straight into the middle of the net, giving Berdych the break. The Spaniard threatened to bounce back in the following game but was denied twice on break opportunities.
Three games later, Berdych converted on his second break point, hitting a backhand winner to take the set. It was a clinical start, as The New York Times' Ben Rothenberg noted:
From there, momentum carried both players in the opposite direction. Berdych continued to dominate on serve and crush winners with precision. His aggression and big forehands had Nadal off balance, and the World No. 3 slowly unraveled.
BBC's David Law put it simply:
Nadal's poor start culminated in the fourth game of the second set, as he handed Berdych a break with a double-fault. He continued to struggle to keep up with Berdych's power and was handed just the second bagel of his Grand Slam career, per ESPN Tennis:
Nadal woke up in the third set, playing with noticeably more vigor and emotion. He was moving better, hitting some magnificent shots and working the Rod Laver Arena crowd into a frenzy.
But every time he looked ready to fight his way back into the match, he ran into Berdych's serve. Nadal had zero breaks in the match, and although he was able to save three match points, he finally lost on the fourth—which, appropriately, was the first match point on Berdych's serve—in the tiebreak.
Rothenberg gave his thoughts:
Nadal will now concentrate on getting healthy, potentially returning to action in mid-February at the Rio Open in Brazil.
Berdych, who had his best finish at the Australian Open last year when he made it to the semifinals, will return there to play either the red-hot Andy Murray or Australian Nick Kyrgios.
One thing is clear: If he plays like he did Tuesday, the big Czech will have a wonderful chance of reaching his first Grand Slam final since 2010—no matter who's on the other side of the net.